How to tighten up a Tight End’s NFL Combine Preparation

Let’s say I’m a football agent with a sports management agency out of Los Angeles.  We just inked one of the more highly rated Tight Ends in this year’s college draft.  This player has the physical attributes to excel in both the passing game and at the line of scrimmage.  His college coaches did an outstanding job in creating mismatches versus opponent’s defenses by splitting him out and using his big frame up against nickel backs and his speed over outside linebackers.

The BEST and the rest

We’ve decided to send him to a one of our exclusive draft preparation camps out in Phoenix, Arizona, for NFL Combine preparation after he concludes the Senior Bowl.  By doing so we want to maximize his performance during the drills at Indy and do everything to clarify his athletic superiority over the rest of the incoming class at the Tight End position.

His production at the collegiate level was in the top five of receivers and all feedback we can garner from the football player evaluations are that he is more than efficient in blocking the trey or high reach.  His Wonderlic score at the Senior Bowl was solid improvement from his last attempt, though it could stand a couple more points for good measure.

What we’d like to see out of Combine preparation in Phoenix is solid indication that our player has every physical capacity to be a starter in the National Football League.  But how will we know this by his recorded numbers?  What will give us the information we need to ensure that the single team needing a Tight End to complete its offensive roster will be secure in knowing our player is worth a first round pick (usually the only Tight End taken in the first round, on average pick #21)?

Forecasting the obvious

Once again we go to the Landers study and compare our player to his peer group over the course of the seven Combine events; short shuttle, long shuttle, three cone, vertical jump, broad jump, 40 yard dash, bench press.

We know to emphasize to the coaches in Phoenix that optimal EPA (Exceeded Peer Average) is 5 for TE’s.  Out of 138 TE’s in the study, 17 exceeded peer average 5 times.  Four of the 17 (24%) started in 2008, while 7 (41%) were on the two-deep depth chart.  The most significant correlation just so happens to be (yes) the 40 yard dash, where 76% eclipsed 4.80 (avg) or better.

Finding the right mix

But there were a number of other interesting returns at the Tight End position that we can hopefully get our client to excel at; 59% of the starters from ’05-’08 were EPA in both the vertical jump and broad jump.  So lower body explosion will be paramount to the training regimen.  Upper body strength in these starters was reflected in 53% EPA in the bench press.  While in the short shuttle and three cone this group was EPA 47% over the time period.  Long shuttle seemed to correlate least with only 18% EPA.

It’s a safe bet that our player will either start or eventually start with a combo of the 40 yard dash plus 4 of the 7 events over peer average.  With 6 of 7, his odds increase by some 16% up to 40%.

Other indications

To round off the confidence in our client, the #1 source for two-deep talent at the TE position is the 1st round at 21%.  Another decade long study (’94-’03) showed that TE’s between picks 1-20 reached 56 starts in their first 5 years 100%, that number dropped to 44% from picks 21-50, 9.5% picks 51-80.

So how would you structure our Tight End’s NFL Combine preparation to solidify first round selection?

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